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Fascia Background

Fascia has both generalized and specialized functions in the human organism. As such, it is the subject of a wide range of scientific research with many specializations of focus and emphasis. Similarly, fascia and its properties are of central importance to clinicians practicing in various conventional therapies and in the wide range of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) modalities.

Recent scientific research in the field of the human fasciae has resulted in several significant findings. Combined, the results from the worldwide research activities constitute a body of significant and important data. It is our shared vision that it is time to gather together all the latest and best scientific information about the body’s connective tissue matrix.

Further, this conference will be break new ground in providing a collegial setting for the mutual benefit and collaboration of basic scientists, academicians, and professionals engaged in the many clinical practices where fascia is an important consideration.

About Fascia

Fascia is the soft tissue component of the connective tissue system that permeates the human body. It forms a whole-body continuous three-dimensional matrix of structural support. Fascia interpenetrates and surrounds all organs, muscles, bones and nerve fibers, creating a unique environment for body systems functioning. The scope of our definition of and interest in fascia extends to all fibrous connective tissues, including aponeuroses, ligaments, tendons, retinaculae, joint capsules, organ and vessel tunics, the epineurium, the meninges, the periostea, and all the endomysial and intermuscular fibers of the myofasciae.

There is a substantial body of research on connective tissue generally focused on specialized genetic and molecular aspects of the extracellular matrix. However, the study of fascia and its function as an organ of support has been largely neglected and overlooked for many years. Since fascia serves both global, generalized functions and local, specialized functions, it is a substrate that crosses several scientific, medical, and therapeutic disciplines, both in conventional and complementary/alternative modalities.

Among the different kinds of tissues that are involved in musculoskeletal dynamics, fascia has received comparatively little scientific attention. Fascia, or dense fibrous connective tissues, nevertheless potentially plays a major and still poorly understood role in joint stability, in general movement coordination, as well as in back pain and many other pathologies. One reason why fascia has not received adequate scientific attention in the past decades is that this tissue is so pervasive and interconnected that it easily frustrates the common ambition of researchers to divide it into a discrete number of subunits which can be classified and separately described. In anatomic displays the fascia is generally removed, so the viewer can see the organs nerves and vessels but fails to appreciate the fascia which connects, and separates, these structures.

Clinician Perspective on Fascia

There is increasing interest in certain therapeutic communities in the role that fascia plays in musculoskeletal strain disorders such as low-back instability and postural strain patterns of all types, fibromyalgia, pelvic pain, and respiratory dysfunction, chronic stress injures, as well as in wound healing, trauma recovery and repair. The Fascia Research Congress seeks to present recent findings that advance knowledge of biomechanical and adaptive properties of fascia that may account for clinical observations in health and dysfunction.

The expanding worldwide scientific research on the human fascial tissues forms a body of knowledge pertinent to a wide range of professionals engaged in conventional and CAM modalities who serve individuals afflicted with specific pathologies or injuries of fascial tissue. The latest research will further the mechanistic understanding of many manual therapies and CAM modalities which contact, mechanically manipulate, penetrate, or otherwise involve fascial tissues.

The clinician's interest in fascia extends to new scientific findings in the following categories, including references to papers from confirmed speakers.

Categories of Clinical Interest

Presenters of key papers in each category are indicated in parentheses with the reference numbers of their papers.

  1. The presence of contractile cells (myofibroblasts) within the fascial fabric. Clinicians are interested in their role in creating contractile tonus in the fascial fabric, how they form, how they are activated, and their influence on passive muscle tonus. (Gabbiani-1,2 Grinnell-1,2,3 Schleip-1,2,3,4 Tomasek-1,2)
  2. Biomechanical properties of fascial tissues: creep, relaxation, hysteresis, effect of sustained spinal flexion on lumbar tissues, strain induced hydration changes, myofascial manipulation and fascial viscoelastic deformation. (Gracovetsky-1 Hinz-1,2,3 Solomonow-1,2,3,4)
  3. Mechanotransduction between the cytoskeletal structure within the cell and the extracellular matrix, and its implications for health and disease. (Grinnel-1 Grodzinsky-1 Ingber-1,2,3)
  4. Forms of mechanical signaling within the fascial matrix, such as the tugging in the collagen matrix created by twisting acupuncture needles (Langevin-1,2,3,4)
  5. How fascia is innervated, and how proprioception and pain are created, detected and modulated by the spinal cord and the rest of the nervous system. (Bove-1,2 Khalsa-1,2 Mense-1,2,3,4)
  6. Other recent findings and significant hypotheses in the realms of biochemistry and biomechanics of fascial deformation and reformation. (Findley-1,2 Huijing-1,2,3 Shah-1 Standley-1 Vleeming-1,2,3)
This project was made possible by Grant Number 1 R13 AT004146-01 from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) and the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS). Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the NCCAM, NIAMS, or the National Institutes of Health.

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